Scottish Country Dancing is a fun way to get fit and make new friends – all with toe-tapping Celtic music!
We welcome you to the Johnsonville Club Beginners’ Classes on 14, 21 & 28 February, 7.30pm-9.30pm on Monday nights at Khandallah Town Hall, 11 Ganges Road, Khandallah, Wellington.
Our classes suit all ages from teenagers and upwards.
First Class: Monday, 14 February
Doors open at 7.15pm. Come along then on the first night to register and be ready to dance at 7.30pm.
Our tutor Rod Downey will introduce the steps over the three weeks and you’ll be up and dancing during the first evening.
This is social dancing and we all dance together and help each other
No partner is needed – come by yourself or with a friend
Wear soft shoes and light comfortable clothing
Just $5 for each class – pay by cash at the door
FREE for 2021 Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Club members
Covid requirements for Khandallah Town Hall
At Orange and Red traffic light settings, Khandallah Town Hall is a ‘vaccinated premises’. Please have your ‘My Vaccine pass’ ready for scanning by a Johnsonville Club member.
We may also ask for verification, in the form of photo ID. So bring your drivers’ license, passport, or any other form of photo ID if you have some. Please also wear your mask and scan the NZ Covid Tracer QR/sign in on arrival.
To find out more, contact Robert on 021 163 9649 or email him or Rod/Kristin on 04 478 4948 or email them
Khandallah Town Hall, 11 Ganges Road, Khandallah, Wellington.
Isabelle and Maggie: New dancers in 2020
Two new dancers have kindly shared their experiences of being a new dancer at Johnsonville Club in 2020.
Johnsonville Club members are often out and about in the community—sharing the fun and friendship of Scottish Country Dancing. In the past, this has included taking part in demonstrations as part of groups who danced in at retirement homes or in schools, or through current members participating in a variety of community events.
The first photos I took of members’ participation in the community was in 1998 when a group of new dancers from that year, including Kristin and Rod Downey’s children, Carlton and Alex, danced in a demonstration at the Newlands Baptist Church.
More recently, our archive of historical photos taken by various members, brings back memories of those who used to dance with us at Johnsonville, as well as providing a record of those who dance with us now.
When former club member Pat Reesby’s grandchildren were at Ngaio School, a group of dancers from various clubs enjoyed showing the joy of dancing to the students, with some of them joining in!
World Rugby Sevens Parades
When the World Rugby Sevens teams used to play in Wellington, the associated street parades provided a wonderful opportunity for dancers from around the Wellington Region to support the Scottish team and join in the fun of these popular parades.
In the Johnsonville Club newsletter on 12 February 2014, Secretary Pat Reesby wrote:
“Jean Denne, John Munro, Désirée Patterson and I all took part in the Sevens parade last Wednesday. We led the Scottish team, and John Patterson took a photo of us with them (see photo below).
“Others in the photo are Elaine Lethbridge and Mary and Duncan Macdonald. Iain Boyd is holding the RSCDS Wellington Region banner on the left, and Allan Forsyth (from the Association of Scots Societies) the one on the right.”
In 2015, members of Johnsonville, Tawa, Kelburn, and Island Bay Clubs took part in the parade.
Through our Johnsonville Club website, we now have easy access to details about our more recent participation in community events.
Fun at Newlands Marae: 2015
The club took part in Neighbours’ Day 2015 at the Newlands Marae, Ngā Hau e Whā o Paparārangi, sharing the experience of dancing with audience members.
A further community event involving children was a visit to Karori Brownies in 2018. It all came about when the Brownie leader spotted a Johnsonville Club Beginners’ Poster in a shop window in Karori and got in touch with us.
Held in brilliant Wellington weather at Waitangi Park in February, Pipes in the Park was a day of piping, highland dancing, Irish dancing, clan and food stalls – and of course some Scottish Country Dancing.
Let’s look forward to more fun and laughter of dancing at community events in the future!
Four sets of Johnsonville dancers and some most welcome guests from other clubs enjoyed dancing at Khandallah Town Hall on 18 October; the first time our club venue was available for dancing since New Zealand moved to Covid Level 4 restrictions on 19 August.
It was serendipitous the club had arranged for live music on this date from Aileen Logie, Jason Morris and Hilary Ferral! Having them on the stage set the scene for a wonderful evening of dancing.
The first part of Rod’s programme focused on reels of three on opposite side and reels of three on own side in dances including Maxwell’s Rant, Balquidder Strathspey and one he devised called The Lass and the Laird (influenced by Jack McConachie’s dance The Laird and the Lass) from Rod’s collection They Stole My Wife from Me Last Night.
We practiced turning corners and partner along with ‘setting as in The Montgomeries’ Rant’ in the strathspey Bridge of Nairn before successfully tackling The Montgomeries’ Rant in reel time.
The final dance of the evening was also one of Rod’s—Peter Elmes’ Strathspey which he devised for musician Peter Elmes. This 32 bar strathspey for 3 couples in a 3 couple set, is published in the Wellington Region 60th Anniversary Book. The recommended tune is The Anzac Strathspey by Peter Elmes; Aileen has devised a lovely music set for the dance.
Rod had not seen Peter Elmes’ Strathspey danced before. Two sets danced it beautifully to the marvellous music from the band, a fitting finale to this marvellous club night.
Many Johnsonville dancers were at the club’s Bowling Club Ceilidh on 30 January where the theme was Burns. Part of this was the Address to a Haggis in Scots – probably largely unintelligible to many! If you’re wondering what all that was about, read on.
Burns night is celebrated in Scotland on the 25 January – Robert Burns’ birthday. He lived from 1759 to 1796, dying young at 37 years, but packed a lot into his short life. January is cold and dark in Scotland, so this is a winter feast with warming fires, whisky and poetry/singing/dancing involved. It’s very popular and second only to Hogmanay.
Burns was a man of the people, not rich, good looking and utterly charming to the ladies (to whom he comes across as irresistible). He believed all people are born equal, rebelling against the established (unequal) religious and moral views of the time.
Burns saw that many Scottish cultural traditions, historical records and literature, and tunes were being lost and he set out to collect these and keep them alive. His many poems were often set to existing older tunes for either singing or dancing. He himself was fond of dancing.
Other well-known ones include – Burns Hornpipe, The Star o’ Rabbie Burns, Salute to Rabbie Burns, Dainty Davie, Green Grow the Rashes, Birks of Abergeldie, Deuks Dang Ower My Daddie, Ca’ the Yowes, Kenmuir’s On ‘n Awa’, My Love She’s but a Lassie Yet. There are also lots of Burns tunes commonly found in sets for other dances – again the list is too long to detail.
Rabbie was a contemporary of Niel Gow – a well respected tune composer (you’ll know many of these too!) and they met up a few times. The lead tune for The Barmkin was composed by the two men together while having a drink at the Inver Inn in 1787 (tune title – Landlady ofInver Inn).
So, what happens at a Burns Supper? There is a celebration of his poetry and songs with many toasts. The haggis was a symbol of working class fare, nourishing poorer people and at the same time using up all parts of animal efficiently (much as sausages do). The haggis is brought into the room on a silver salver with great ceremony and a piper leading the procession.
The Address to the Haggis can be simply translated into sections:
1st and 2nd verses compliment the haggis on its fulsome appearance (chieftain of the pudding race), fat face and buttocks like distant hills, also enticing amber bead droplets exuding through the pores.
3rd and 4th verses describe the knife cutting into the haggis (gushing entrails bright) and the glorious sight and smell. People rush forward with their spoons to partake until their bellies are fit to burst and the head of table says a thankyou grace.
5th and 6th verses poke fun at those who dabble in continental faddy food (ragout, olio, fricassee) which would make a sow sick and good folk vomit. Such poor devils are weak with thin legs, small fist and not fit enough to run across a field or flood.
7th and 8th verses compare a haggis fed man – his tread makes the Earth tremble and any blade in his hand would whistle while cutting off legs, arms and heads like the top of a thistle. To finish, it beseeches those choosing food for Scots to avoid watery stuff in wee bowls but give them haggis to earn their gratitude.
Haggis is always served with Neeps (Swede turnip) and mashed Tatties….and whisky. It is usually preceded by The Selkirk Grace by Rabbie Burns.
Some hae meat and canna eat, — And some wad eat that want it; But we hae meat, and we can eat, Sae let the Lord be thankit.
In a nutshell, Rabbie brought us many well-loved stirring poems and songs, ranging from beautiful to satirical. He created valuable collections of tunes, history and culture of his times.
His humble beginnings were working with his parents on the farm in Ayrshire in the Borders. It was a hard life punctuated with landlord troubles, colouring his attitude to figures of authority abusing their power. His ‘artistic temperament’ made him very popular, including siring 14 children by four different mothers.
After using up all his money, he later took a job as an exciseman (oh, the irony) and settled down with his wife Jean Armour. He died of heart failure.
We remember him often by singing Auld Lang Syne at the end of every Scottish Event – his most enduring poem about friendship.
Other often quoted lines include:
O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us. (O would some power the gift give us to see ourselves as others see us.)
The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft a-gley, An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain For promis’d joy.
Going back in time to the Roaring Twenties, groups of elegant dancers entered a beautifully decorated ballroom ready for an evening of dance and friendship: flappers in dresses decorated with beadwork, sequins or embroidery, feathers in their hair and long swirling strings of pearls; men in striped jackets, white trousers and boater hats or resplendent in black Prince Charlie jackets and kilts.
Wellington Region President at the time, Philippa Pointon, says the committee decided to have a 1920s ball to celebrate the decade in which the RSCDS was formed.
Thanks so much to the committee of Melva Waite, Kath Ledingham, Eileen South and Philippa, who was also MC for the evening, for organising this grand affair on 5 July 2014.
As dancers arrived, they were offered punch by three smartly dressed bartenders; Kevin Lethbridge, Pat Waite and Peter Warren.
Everyone had the opportunity to pose in their finery in a gold photo booth, made especially for the purpose by John Gregory. Thanks to John for pulling together all the fantastic decorations for the evening, with the photo booth continuing to feature at formal occasions including the Johnsonville 50 Golden Years Celebration in 2016.
Lively music from Aileen Logie, John Smith, Peter Elmes and Terry Bradshaw (with some sets containing 1920s tunes cleverly arranged by Peter), got toes tapping and dancers on to the floor throughout the evening.
Old favourites on the programme included The Sailor, Cadgers in Canongate and Sugar Candie. Dances published by the RSCDS in the 1920s were represented by Flowers of Edinburgh (Book 1, 1924) and Blue Bonnets (Book 3, 1926).
“A great night was had by all”, Philippa says. “I don’t think the Charleston had ever been played on an accordion before!”
More than twenty new dancers came along to Johnsonville’s beginners’ classes early in 2020 to try out Scottish Country dancing. Around half of those decided it was not for them, but the other half wanted to know more.
Club nights had only been up and running for three weeks when Covid got in the way, dancing was suspended, and many people’s lives changed. Despite this, four of our new dancers found the joy of the dance irresistible, and have become part of our dancing community.
Two of those dancers have kindly shared their experiences of being a new dancer at Johnsonville Club in 2020: Maggie Boag and Isabelle Joseph. Find out more below.
Maggie Boag: An incredible way to exercise the body…and brain
Maggie has a bit of a head start on many of us, having done easy Scottish Country dances as a child at school in Paisley, not far from Glasgow. She also lived in the Highlands, in the wee village of Foyers (famous for its ‘smoky’ waterfall) south of Inverness, on the shores of Loch Ness.
Robert Burns and Lord Kelvin, amongst others, visited Foyers, Burns wrote a poem about it, and there is a Scottish Country dance named The Falls of Foyers. Maggie’s Scottish background surely set her up to find the joy in Scottish Country dancing.
But outside of school, she only ever danced at Christmas dances, weddings and ceilidhs until a Kiwi friend brought her along to beginners’ classes in Johnsonville. As Maggie says: ‘It seems I had to come to New Zealand to learn RSCDS dances … all far more complicated than any I had done before.’
If Covid-19 had not come along, Maggie’s allowed 6-month visit to family in New Zealand would have finished, and she would have headed back to Scotland in April. Happily for us and for Maggie, her visit was extended, and she danced with us all year. Long may it last.
Since I recently became a widow, I found it difficult to meet new people and enjoy company. A good friend suggested that I might like to join her at Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Club on a Monday night.
I was very nervous and, right up till the last minute, I almost pulled out. I am so glad that I didn’t.
From the moment I arrived, all of the members gave me a warm welcome. They showed an interest in me, encouraged me, and reassured me that I would soon learn the steps of the many dances.
They pointed out that, in the past, they too had been beginners, and it didn’t matter if you made a mistake, or got your right mixed up with your left, the patterns would soon fall into place.
Experienced dancers always took me and the other new dancers as partners for each dance. They would gently and subtly point out the correct way to go and what was coming next.
Of course that didn’t always work, and there were sometimes hilarious consequences. But these kind people never laugh at you, instead they laugh with you!
Every evening there is much laughter and communication. This is so very good for your spirit.
Our excellent tutor, Rod, is a very patient man. He breaks down each dance, explains each part of it, and demonstrates how it should be done. (He is so light on his feet!)
Before each class, he lets us know by email what new dances will be taught that week and includes videos of those dances. This is tremendously helpful.
Rod has a wealth of knowledge of all the dances and the music that accompanies them. We all learn so much from him and are inspired by his enthusiasm.
I have also found that Scottish Country Dancing is an incredible way to exercise … not only the body, but also the brain. Since taking up dancing, I find the many hills of Wellington far less challenging.
After this first year of dancing, I am still very much a beginner compared to most of my new friends. With their kindness, friendship, and encouragement, I am keen to carry on and become more competent.
I still make many mistakes, and am often more like a baby elephant than a nimble elf, but when I get the moves in a dance right, and I glide across the floor with an excellent partner, I experience such a feeling of accomplishment and such a feeling of joy.
It really has astounded me that Scottish Country Dancing could make me feel so good. I really am so grateful to all at Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Club.
I am looking forward to future years of good company, a fun way to exercise both my mind and body, and to learn more of these amazing dances.
I would dearly love to stay in New Zealand permanently, not only to be near my daughter, but because I have found the people, the culture and the land of this beautiful country to be wonderful. Hopefully this might happen in the not too distant future.
Isabelle Joseph: Enjoying dancing allows me to have fun
Isabelle just loves to dance. From the moment she saw Johnsonville Club’s beginners’ ad for dance classes close by in Johnsonville, she was hooked.
Isabelle had done some traditional Malay dance at school in Malaysia, and danced to music and song at parties. She’d seen and liked the Irish dancing in Riverdance, but not seen Scottish country dancing before. That didn’t matter though, Isabelle just wanted to dance.
As she says: ‘I’m so glad that I took some time to read the Independent Herald in January, in which I came across the Johnsonville Scottish Country dance club. I “braved” myself to come in for the first night of dancing and have loved every session I attended.’
Since then Isabelle has earned renown for the delicious Malaysian curry puffs she prepares for Tartan nights and volunteered to join this year’s supper team. She also likes the sound of bag-pipes which she finds to be an amazing musical instrument!
We are lucky she was brave enough to join us on the dance floor, and are so pleased she’s staying on to dance with us. A friend has even made Isabelle a beautiful tartan sash to wear while dancing.
I came to New Zealand in December 2015. I moved here from Malaysia to be with my husband.
Working life in Malaysia was hectic with long hours so when I came to . it took some adjustment to the free time I had, to a point I became bored just sitting around the house and not doing much.
So I joined both a Tamil society here in Wellington and then joined the Malaysian society in 2017 where I am currently secretary. Apart from that, I volunteered as a teacher aid with MCLaSS, and with Mary Potter Hospice store in Porirua.
When my husband started his own financial business about three years ago, I stopped my volunteering and started working with him due to the banking background I have. However I still do volunteering, every Tuesday fortnight at the Home of Compassion, Island Bay.
As for dancing, back in my school days I’ve done traditional Malay dance, and in October 2017, myself with three other friends did a dance for the NZ Malaysian Society Deepavali event. Apart from that, it’s just free dance to any kind of dance music/song in parties.
I got to know about the Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Club through the Independent Herald, January 2020 publication. I read the article in the newspaper (though it was small, it caught my attention). I decided to email the club to express my interest and get more information. I promptly received a reply, advising me on the day when the club resumes dancing.
Monday 3 February, I got ready and drove down to the Johnsonville Bowling Club. Though I was nervous I went with an open mind to be greeted by smiles and hellos. That put me at ease.
Then the dancing started, with some simple, do-able warm-ups. The experienced dancers looked after the new dancers, partnering with them for each dance routine. It was not easy remembering the moves but eventually you get the hang of it with the help of the experienced dancers.
Since then, Monday evening is a day I look forward to, a day/time I block off on my calendar. The dance is fun and keeps the brain active as you need to remember the formations and when it is your turn to move, of course with the guidance of our dance tutor.
I can’t say I knew Scottish dance before I joined the club. I must say it was unexpected. I didn’t know there were so many routines, formations, different kind of steps for different kind of music. It was pretty challenging.
But the fact that I enjoyed dancing allowed me to have fun with it. Of course the more experienced dancers did a great job looking out for new dancers like me. And Rod is an amazing tutor.
Read an article below about about Johnsonville’s new dancers in the Independent Herald